This week’s top blogs cover SEND inclusion, school values, assessment and some thoughts on the purpose of education
It is refreshing to read a blog that doesn’t shy away from addressing the uncomfortable truth about SEND and inclusion: many schools are just not doing enough. I firmly believe the majority of school staff want to ensure students with SEND are able to thrive. However, Dempsey’s assertions are backed up by national data published by the DfE which identified that, ‘the attainment difference between pupils with SEN compared to pupils with no identified SEN remains the largest difference of all characteristics groups’.
Never a fan of problems being presented without practical solutions, I was pleased to see that Dempsey provides extensive advice about how SEND inclusion should be interwoven into the fabric of school. From lessons to lunchtimes, teachers to SLT – inclusion can’t just be an afterthought or add-on to other projects or conversations. Instead, Dempsey says, every aspect of school life should be approached with the thought, ‘what works for every child, not just most?’
Too often, the inclusion of those with SEND is considered too complex to address immediately. But, as Dempsey points out, “children in our schools right now don’t have time to wait”.
In this powerfully worded piece, Paul Heery shares how his personal experience of raising his daughter, Molly, who is diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis and Williams Syndrome, has influenced his personal and professional values. Molly’s own experience of school was incredibly positive, Heery says, but he recognises that this is not the case for plenty of students “whose lives aren’t running on the conventional trajectory”.
His message is one I unequivocally agree with: success will look different for every child – considerably different for some – but every single child deserves the support, kindness, time and investment which will allow them to realise their potential. As Heery concludes, “If a school ever turns away a pupil because they are too challenging, or too complex, or not clever enough, then no matter what they achieve, according to the value system that I hold, those achievements are empty”.
For those who really want to understand what living your values is, this blog post is essential reading.
Someone else whose work I’ve long admired and who I often quote when it comes to discussions around shared values – namely, that they should be ‘lived not laminated’ – is Mary Myatt.
In her latest post, she shares her thoughts on assessment. Particularly since the shadow of coronavirus swept over schools in 2020, the word ‘assessment’ has become one that evokes a visceral response from school staff and immediately leads us to think of high stakes exams on which a child’s entire future rest.
This post reminds us that assessment takes place in many forms throughout an effective lesson, from ‘high-quality conversations’ to ‘more formal but still low stakes’ quizzes.
Myatt advocates for “thoughtful, sensitive and robust assessment” so that we can ‘”see the distance travelled” by students. At a time when TAGs are dominating the narrative, this is a timely and welcome reminder about other, powerful ways to support students to reflect and build on their learning.
I reviewed Schools in their Communities: Taking Action and Developing Civic Life’ by special school executive head and Citizens UK community organiser, Seb Chapleau for Schools Week last year. So I knew that his latest blog would be well worth a read.
Not strictly an educational post, the focus here is on how grassroots community organisers can and should influence decision-makers to bring about meaningful change for their communities. This may make some feel uneasy, Chapleau acknowledges, but it is vital that citizens feel able to participate in decisions which influence their lives.
And after all, what is education if not empowering people to take an active part in their community? Covid has thrust values back onto schools’ agendas and schools back into the hearts of their communities, and now seems a good time to ask how to build on that.